JetBlue, which will offer satellite-based Wi-Fi from ViaSat’s exede internet offering, will charge passengers when they download lots of data, but the airline hopes to keep basic service free.

New details emerged today about JetBlue’s Wi-Fi plans during an analyst day at Nasdaq as an official said the airline is getting close to having its first aircraft Wi-Fi equipped.

The service will be marketed as Fly-Fi.

JetBlue caused a stir a couple of weeks ago when officials said they would strive to keep Wi-Fi free even after a promotional period.

But, without providing pricing details, now it appears that the plan is to charge passengers for premium Wi-Fi, such as when they download Netflix movies, but to keep the basic service free, according to Robin Hayes, chief commercial officer.

Hayes said JetBlue is exploring options such as providing free Wi-Fi — he didn’t say whether it would be for basic or premium service — as a perk for being a member the airline’s loyalty program, TrueBlue.

He said JetBlue “will find a way” to keep the basic service free for the long-term, and might do so through partnerships and advertising.

The ka-band-based Wi-Fi from ViaSat will be “a true transformational event,” Hayes said, contending it is much faster than systems, such as Gogo and Row 44, that competitors use.

“If every customer on the aircraft chooses to use it, they will be able to,” Hayes said.

Why is Wi-Fi, which JetBlue has eschewed until now, so important to the airline.

Hayes said one reason JetBlue is “underperforming” on transcontinental flights, such as Boston to San Francisco and Los Angeles, is because many business travelers won’t tolerate a lack of Wi-Fi for that duration.

Tags: jetblue, wi-fi
Photo Credit: JetBlue believes its new Wi-Fi will "exede" passengers expectations on performance. JetBlue